Timberland Regional Library, Harper Collins and Overdrive ebooks

Here’s some background on the current situation about the decision by Harper Collins to limit how many times one of their ebooks is checked out through the Overdrive. Harper Collins in the first publisher to make a limit like this, but from what I’ve read, it probably isn’t the last. That’s the basics, but here’s a more detailed rundown on why this is really important.

Also, here’s a list of the official reactions from libraries around the country.

And, here is what Timberland is doing: for now, we’re not buying (licensing rather) any more ebooks from Harper Collins through Overdrive. We’re not boycotting, but rather seeing how things shake out.

Last week during our board meeting, we got a short update from our collection staff on the situation in general and how we’re approaching it. While we’re not buying new licenses, we’re not boycotting. We’re simply seeing how this works out in the weeks ahead.

Some additional thoughts (from me, not from staff or other trustees):

  • Overdrive is really the only vendor that provides this sort of service to libraries. While, I think they do a decent job, its not like vendors are lining up to compete for the lucrative library ebook market. That there is no other vendor out there negotiating different terms with publishers or authors has something to do with this.
  • It isn’t like we don’t have to purchase new books when old ones wear out. Digital copies don’t wear out, but publishers are used to a system were a library will purchase a lot of popular titles and replace them after a lot of use. Probably not just 26 times, but at some point, we replace books. I don’t necessarily agree with what Harper Collins is doing, or think its good for them in the long run, but I understand their reasoning.


Filed under Meeting reports, technology, What Timberland is doing

3 responses to “Timberland Regional Library, Harper Collins and Overdrive ebooks

  1. Harper-Collins rationale sounds reasonable at first glance–ebooks don’t wear out like paper books do, and the present method of licensing ebooks means having the book in perpetuity, which does seem unfair to the publishers–but when you think about the ways that ebooks are already strictly limited compared to their paper equivalents, the analogy falls apart.

    To name just a few examples, patrons can’t donate their old ebooks to the library, and libraries can’t resell withdrawn ebooks to recoup some of the cost of purchase (which in both cases is arguably bad for publishers: every donated paper book is one fewer the library purchases, and every paper book sold at a library book sale is potentially one fewer new book sold by the publisher).

    And, perhaps more significantly, the majority of ebooks won’t, in practice, end up circulating forever anyway. Circulation for most items, after their moment of popular has passed, quickly drops to a trickle. They wouldn’t be replaced anyway, whatever format they may be, simply because there’s no longer any demand for them.

    Then there’s the silly figure of 26 circulations, which is a gross underestimation of how often a paper book typically circulates before having to be discarded because of wear, as these librarians demonstrate.

    All and all, I think it’s a bad business decision on the part of Harper-Collins. When people have a convenient and legal means of obtaining the media they want, they gladly embrace it (hence the popularity of services like Hulu or Netflix); if people don’t, they find other, less legitimate ways. But only the former still generates revenue for content owners.

  2. kelsey

    Yeah, what Brian said.

  3. Pingback: Meeting documents for Wednesday meeting in South Bend | supports an active, informed community

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